Ayende @ Rahien

It's a girl

Looking for a new development laptop

I am looking at getting a new laptop. This is something that should serve as a development machine, and I am getting tired of waiting for the computer to do its work. As such, I intend to invest in a high end machine, but I am still considering which and what.

Minimum Requirements are 4GB RAM, Dual Core, Fast HD, big screen.

Video doesn't interest me, since even the low end ones are more than I would ever want. Weight is also not an issue, I would be perfectly happy with a laptop that came with its own wheelbarrow.

I am seriously thinking about getting a laptop with a solid state drive, and I am beginning to wonder if quad core is worth the price. Then again, I am currently writing dream checks for it, which is why I feel like I can go wild with all the features.

Any recommendations?

Comments

Joakim Sundén
01/28/2008 01:36 PM by
Joakim Sundén

What about a MacBook Pro?

""The fastest Windows Vista notebook we've tested this year is a Mac. Try that again: The fastest Windows Vista notebook we've tested this year--or for that matter, ever--is a Mac. Not a Dell, not a Toshiba, not even an Alienware."

http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,136649-page,3-c,notebooks/article.html

You can get the 17" with 4 GB RAM (a lot cheaper if you buy the extra Gigs "non-Apple") and 7200 rpm HD.

David Mohundro
01/28/2008 01:59 PM by
David Mohundro

Well, I picked up a Dell Vostro 1500 a few months back... dual core, 4 gb of RAM, 120 gb hard drive at 7200 RPM, 1680x1080 resolution, all for around $1500. I mainly picked the 1500 over the 1700 because the 1700 didn't offer the 7200 RPM drive.

I would've liked more customization options, but the price was great for the options. I looked at the MacBooks, but they would have been an extra $500 (at least) for a similar configuration.

Ayende Rahien
01/28/2008 02:01 PM by
Ayende Rahien

Joakim,

by the time you take a MacBook Pro and adds 4GB as well as 7200 HD, you gets to the 4,000 dollars range.

Then again, I priced XPS M1730 and with the addition that I want (including a solid state drive) it is in the 5,000$ range. This is ridicilous.

Richard
01/28/2008 02:02 PM by
Richard

Why a laptop? Do you work mainly from one place but like a laptop for those times you aren't in that place?

Consider 2 machines a solid super fast desktop for your main machine but a laptop with enough to see you through your travels!

Ayende Rahien
01/28/2008 02:04 PM by
Ayende Rahien

I have this scenario right now, but it is getting extremely painful to do any sort of development on the laptop

Simon
01/28/2008 02:06 PM by
Simon

Don't go for an SSD as the write times will be horrific for compilation and also remember Flash has a limited write cycle so compilations are going to kill it sooner than most other apps since writes go up pretty quickly during a dev cycle.

Derik Whittaker
01/28/2008 02:13 PM by
Derik Whittaker

I have a dell Latitude D830 fully loaded and I love it. I have the 1900 x 1200 res as well.

Driesie
01/28/2008 02:18 PM by
Driesie

I bought an acer travelmate 8200 when they first came out (first dual core laptop). It was pretty much exactly the same spec as the first intel powerbook, but it came out at least £500 cheaper.

It's not as good looking as the apple, but it's got a good screen, and never given me any trouble, so I can recommend acer

c.sokun
01/28/2008 02:19 PM by
c.sokun

i just learn that this company sagernotebook.com produce a giant laptop spec i had blog one of it produce recently can't give the link cuz i'm on mobile

Peter Ritchie
01/28/2008 02:24 PM by
Peter Ritchie

What about going 64-bit so your 64-bit apps can get more than 2GB of RAM?

Adam Vandenberg
01/28/2008 02:24 PM by
Adam Vandenberg

Apple's price for 4GB of RAM is insane; buy from Newegg instead:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=2010260381+1309121118+1309221136&name=DDR2+667+(PC2+5300)

...and save like $600 bucks. In fact, I'm having a hard time believing that you can get 4GB for < $100, but there you go. Maybe I should go from 2GB to 4GB while the getting's good.

Aaron W
01/28/2008 02:27 PM by
Aaron W

Personally, I'm looking at the Dell M1330s right now. Although this doesn't meet your requirement for the large screen (its a 13in ultraportable -- hey just buy a 22 widescreen instead of the wheelbarrow) -- dell has a discount going on right now, and I'm sure you can get what you want in the 1800 - 2000 price range (minus the solid state drive of course).

Ayende Rahien
01/28/2008 02:27 PM by
Ayende Rahien

That is an OS decision, you can't get non 64 bits machines anymore.

Michael
01/28/2008 02:35 PM by
Michael

If your wanting high-end without a concern for weight, go with Sager and load it up with the Core2 Extreme Quad Core processor. The laptop is expandable to 4 gig of ram, comes with Sata 3 support with hardware raid to boot all for sub 2,500.00

You can find the link here for discount laptops pricing: http://www.discountlaptops.com/index.php?section=specs&modelid=1517&categoryid=2&categorytheme=c1&showprices=cc

Alan
01/28/2008 02:58 PM by
Alan

I've tried most brands out there and purchased many for the last few companies I've worked for. When I went looking for a new laptop a couple of months ago I knew I wanted a Lenovo but at the last minute I changed my mind and tried an HP business class machine (nc8400 series) on a tip from another consultant.

It's just what I wanted. Best build quality of any laptop I've owned and the best looking screen. 1680x1050 15.4" widescreen and a joy to look at with excellent color, contrast and brightness. It's a dual core with 4 gig ram, 200GB 7200 rpm drive. It also has decent battery life with several battery configuration options. Don't underestimate the importance of battery life :)

Andrew Davey
01/28/2008 03:03 PM by
Andrew Davey

I recently bought a Dell XPS M2010 "laptop". I use quotes because the thing is massive! It's a 20" screen, 4GB RAM, dual core, dual HDD in RAID 0.

It's my main dev machine now and totally flies! :D

Markus Zywitza
01/28/2008 03:06 PM by
Markus Zywitza

@Andrew: RAID 0 in a notebook? You'd better commit very often and not to a local repository...

Jimmy Bogard
01/28/2008 03:09 PM by
Jimmy Bogard

I suggest you get a laptop that makes other laptops tremble with fear in its presence. That's the Dell XPS M2010:

http://www.dell.com/content/products/productdetails.aspx/xpsnb_m2010

The M2010 eats other laptops for breakfast. See the intimidation in the London Underground:

http://crave.cnet.co.uk/video/0,139101587,49284379,00.htm

Be sure to switch arms occasionally when carrying it. Otherwise you'll have disproportionate muscle gain from the workout of lugging it around.

Rik Hemsley
01/28/2008 03:12 PM by
Rik Hemsley

HP do some 17" models which have great keyboards and seem pretty well made. I would recommend buying your own RAM and hard drive(s). The 17" HP laptops take 2 drives...

HP Pavilion Media Center dv9667ea T7500 2048MB 320GB 17": £880

Crucial 4GBKIT (2GBx2) SODIMM DDR2 PC2-5300: £65

Seagate 200GB 7200RPM 2.5" SATA: £120

Seagate 200GB 7200RPM 2.5" SATA: £120

Total: £1185 ... ~ $2,355

HP also do a 20" monster laptop but that's twice the price to start with.

Peter Ritchie
01/28/2008 03:43 PM by
Peter Ritchie

I can still get 32-bit laptops in my neighourhood. 64-bit may be the majority now, but 32-bit is still available.

The Other Steve
01/28/2008 03:51 PM by
The Other Steve

I have a laptop and a desktop at home. I find I can't really do development work on the laptop much. I do a bit, but the form factor is just uncomfortable and screen too small.

So I upgraded my desktop, with 4 gigs of ram and such, and it rocks.

I guess I'd suggest looking for a laptop that had docking station abilities, like the Dell latitude series. So when you get back to your desk you can easily just snap it in and have a real keyboard and mouse, not have to fight a half dozen cords on the back of the machine.

Also with a laptop, go for one with the simple intel video as it has far greater battery life than the nvidia or ati chips.

Thomas Krause
01/28/2008 04:04 PM by
Thomas Krause

Dell Vostro 1700:

  • 17" screen with 1920x1200 resolution.

  • Space for 2 HDD drives (I don't know if raid 0 is possible though), SDD or 7200rpm are available too afaik.

josh
01/28/2008 04:23 PM by
josh

You can get a MacBook Pro for a lot cheaper by buying from Amazon (or other) and adding the upgrades yourself. You can buy Mac compatable parts from various resellers for a LOT cheaper than ordering a mac with them installed. i've been recommended to look at macmall.com for parts.

Otherwise, I've generally found that HP gives you good value for your dollar. You'll probably need to upgrade the hard drive and RAM though.

Personally, I'm hesistant on brands like sony and toshiba because of the special drivers and bloat-ware they put on their machines. I've seen toshiba and sony laptops that won't run without their custom version of windows.

It most cases, adding your own drive and ram saves you money.

Jon Davis
01/28/2008 05:39 PM by
Jon Davis

Just to whet your creative research endeavors:

http://www.jondavis.net/blog/?tag=/toshiba+satellite+x205-s9359

I'm still very happy with my purchase.

Peter Mounce
01/28/2008 05:50 PM by
Peter Mounce

Would it be feasible (hell, possible) to get a laptop, with large RAM, and then a series of to-all-intents-and-purposes-disposable (but fast) USB keys for the page-file and doing-compilation-on, instead of shelling out for an SSD drive?

Tom Opgenorth
01/28/2008 06:42 PM by
Tom Opgenorth

I do a lot of travel with my laptop (I favour short contracts) and I'm glad I got "only" a 15" display. It's a bit easier to lug around. If I was more "static", I'd consider the 17" ones. I don't worry about the reduce screen real estate, because in most cases when I get to client sites I appropriate a monitor and run dual head.

I've had good luck over the last few years with ASUS laptops.

I'm thinking that for my next laptop (Probably in 6 ~ 8 months time), I'm probably getting a MacBook Pro, and upgrading it myself.

Steve
01/28/2008 07:09 PM by
Steve

Forget SSD for now, too expensive.. get 4GB+ with 64-bit OS and then use RAM drive images for your development projects, makes visual studio run MUCH faster.

alberto
01/28/2008 07:17 PM by
alberto

You should take into consideration that it you use a 32-bit OS you won't be able to use your 4GB, but only ~3GB.

I would also go for a 15'' screen. 17 is way too big to be portable.

As for the quad core, I don't think it's worth it, unless you are using your processor really heavily, not just compiling. A fast HDD is probably more important.

Casey
01/28/2008 07:45 PM by
Casey

I had a similar requirement nearly a year ago and went for a UK company ...

http://www.rockdirect.com/viewNotebook.php?pName=XTREME%20770

20" screens are awesome .... display is amazing, heat is hot ... power drain = no battery life :)

But it is awesomely fast ...

Stuart Carnie
01/28/2008 08:30 PM by
Stuart Carnie

Fast HDD and 4GB RAM - most important. I'm going to upgrade my existing Macbook Pro to one of the new Penryn's when it comes out. 4GB RAM, 2.6GHz C2D, 7,200RPM drive, potentially the 17", as it's < 500g heavier than the 15".

Can't say I'm happy with Vista either - so you may even want to steer clear of that. I updated to SP1 RC, and it had a number of issues - I reverted and all is well again.

Brian
01/28/2008 08:49 PM by
Brian

MacBook Pro - I just switched over this year, couldn't be happier. It is true that it has been my best Windows laptop I have ever owned. I know a lot of people who don't own a Mac will bash the idea, but unless they own one, I would be weary of their arguements against it.

You get VMWare Fusion on a MacBook Pro, you get a great setup you never would have believed.

By the way, now that I have it, I find myself trying to stay out of Windows more and more. Side effect to owning a Mac I guess....

Bunter
01/28/2008 09:39 PM by
Bunter

Getting one with XP (i.e. without vista) is one of the biggest performance gains. But one issue with both 32-bit Vista and XP is that they cannot use more than 3.1-3.3 GB of your 4GB. And 64 bit XP can be true pita when it comes down to driver support. Getting Dell XPS m1530 to run 64-bit XP was a battle lost here couple of weeks ago.

A thing you forgot to mention is how much are you going to travel around with it. It not only reflects weight considerations but also the case. For example, some models of dell (inspirons, especially, i'm writing this message on one) doesn't really stand lot's of dragging and are rather fragile. In that sence IBM/Lenovo is one of the best i've seen.

But in a long run, don't do intensive development on laptops. It's much easier to get all sorts of health problems while using them, at least so our occupational safety manager keeps telling us.

Jeff Brown
01/28/2008 09:53 PM by
Jeff Brown

Sounds like overkill. You'll end up with a big heavy laptop that you won't be able to use anywhere.

If the screen is any larger than a 12-13" widescreen you won't be able to use it on the plane because the seats are too close together. Ditto on busses and in cars. Even my little laptop is sometimes a little hard to use in economy class seats.

I have a Vaio TX 610P which is an 11" widescreen ultraportable. It's only got a 1.1Ghz CPU, 1Gb RAM and something like 40Gb of disk space (I'd have to check) but it's just about perfect for coding on the go. I'm tempted to max it out at 1.5Gb RAM but so far it hasn't caused me too much trouble.

Why? Form factor and battery life are more important than raw power when you're on the go.

And yes, I have Visual Studio 2008, R# and everything else as usual on this laptop. Works like a champ for the most part. Obviously it's slower but it still gets the job done and it doesn't keep me waiting too much.

Besides, no matter how beefy your box is, you'll still end up waiting for Visual Studio to do stuff or for Windows to move files around for whatever inexplicable reasons.

And I can always remote into a beefier machine if I really need to.

Ayende Rahien
01/28/2008 10:02 PM by
Ayende Rahien

Jeff,

Overkill, certainly. I am currently writing dream checks, the sky is the limit with this situation.

It'll get down to earth when I get to actually thinking about where I am going to pay for it from.

I do a lot of stuff on my laptop, a lot of development, demo, consulting, etc.

Size / weight doesn't bother me much, mostly because I rarely run into the situations that you described.

Battery life is important, yes, but not as much as pain free usage.

If I can minimize the wait times, it is worth it

Wade Grandoni
01/28/2008 10:11 PM by
Wade Grandoni

SSD's are great if you can afford them but with 4GB of Ram, why not just run your complete src directory from a Ram Disk? You could even put your DB on the ram drive if you really wanted to. This is the cheepest way I've found to a blazing fast "disk". You'll notice compile times, test runs and visual studio/resharper performance go way up. There are free ram disk utilities and commercial ones that are relatively inexpensive available. Just google ram disk or ram drive to find them.

C-J Berg
01/29/2008 12:09 AM by
C-J Berg

I bought a new ThinkPad T61p not long ago, which I think is a perfect developer laptop: http://tinyurl.com/2ha9xd

I run it with 4 GB RAM on Vista x64 (and I'll never go back to a 32-bit OS again, it's that great). It's fast, quiet, and it has the ThinkPad's proven quality.

As for screen size, I think this 15.4" 1920x1200 is great on the road, but I also have a 22" Lenovo L220X where I spend the most time working; a bigger and brighter stand-alone screen is simply irreplaceable as of today.

The Other Steve
01/29/2008 12:52 AM by
The Other Steve

I run Vista 64-bit on my desktop with 4 Gigs of RAM. It was surprisingly considerably faster than the 32-bit version. Maybe this has to do with memory access, I'm not sure.

The only problem I have is the intel audio driver leaks memory when I play internet radio... I have to reboot about once a week to free that up.

Lothan
01/29/2008 03:32 AM by
Lothan

I have to agree with Josh regarding the MacBook and MacBook Pro. I priced a fully loaded 17-inch MacBook Pro at more than $3,500 because Apple's upgrades are outrageous (but then some of Dell's upgrades are outrageous as well). Compare Apple's 4GB RAM upgrade at $700 to Crucial 4GB notebook RAM at $200 or so and the Hitachi 200GB 7200RPM SATA hard drive is around $200.

If I was seriously looking for a notebook right now, I'd want Intel Core 2 Duo (64-bit) with 4GB RAM capabilities, SATA drive connectors, and 17-inch widescreen display. Solid-state drives sound nice on paper, but solid-state drives aren't ready for a development machine (slow write times, limited write ability, and prohibitive cost).

Current notebooks that seem attractive include the MacBook Pro, Dell E1705, and Dell Vostro (but Dell doesn't offer 7200 RPM drives for the Vostro). Given the prices for upgrades, I'd buy the cheapest RAM/Drive combo possible and buy the upgrades from NewEgg.

Matthew Wills
01/29/2008 03:51 AM by
Matthew Wills

Is it worthwhile getting 4GB of RAM?

http://www.dansdata.com/askdan00015.htm

Sanket
01/29/2008 05:16 AM by
Sanket

Boss,

East or West Toshiba is the Best.... go for that and you would fall in love with it.

Highily Recommended.

Ayende Rahien
01/29/2008 05:21 AM by
Ayende Rahien

Matthew ,

Yes. I am running on such a machine now, you feel the difference

Shane Bush
01/29/2008 05:52 AM by
Shane Bush

If you're gonna be coding on it, I'd highly recommend the MacBook Pro. The keyboard is awesome for a laptop.

Gabriel Lozano-Moran
01/29/2008 07:16 AM by
Gabriel Lozano-Moran

Right now i am using the XXODD XNi m570U notebook with is built by a Dutch company. These laptops are based on the Clevo. I believe that the already mentioned Sagernotebooks, some Alienware en other laptops also use the same Clevo machines. These are high performant excellent machines.

Here is an article on Engadget for the clevo based laptops:

http://www.engadget.com/2007/03/20/clevo-strikes-again-with-nvidia-8800-based-m570ru-17-inch-laptop/

mark
01/29/2008 09:16 AM by
mark

I have Macbook Pro (MBP) 17" 2.4Ghz 4GB 7200RM drive purchased Dec 2007. I had my choice of laptops and read so many good things about OSX and MBP that I literally bought into the hype. It's not that fast. My tests with SuperPi proves the MBP is an average 2.4Ghz C2D computer. If you are efficient on a standard PC keyboard, the MBP keyboard SUCKS! Let me say that again, the MBP keyboard SUCKS! I cannot stand the keyboard feel nor are there dedicated keys for pgup, pgdwn, home, end and a real delete key. You have to use the fn key to get these keys. The one button touchpad is horrible and too big (why they use a helicopter pad on a laptop is beyond me). I'm not at all impressed with the MBP.

Niel
01/29/2008 09:58 AM by
Niel

Another vote for the Latitude D830. Build solid( can take a knock or two) and I'm developing in VM's that run faster that my previous laptop..

Bill Pierce
01/29/2008 02:53 PM by
Bill Pierce

I hear good things about the Lenovo X61. Small, powerful, and travels well. I know the screen is small, but you can easily attach it to a 22" widescreen. Those are cheap enough that you could get one for the office and one for the home.

MikeD
01/29/2008 07:44 PM by
MikeD

I have a T61p and am ording another with the WUXGA 15.4 They now offer the new Intel 9300 CPU.

Do yourself a favor and reinstall the OS onto a new drive, I order a new drive HIT 7200 SATA 150 and 4 gig ram, do the swap and a fresh install. Vista finds the drivers on it's own and the machine is more reliable in my experiance.

The things Lenovo installs, even after removing as much as I could, were still causing all sorts of problems including BSOD when I did a fresh install I just let Vista grab all the drivers and left it alone, working like a champ now, so I plan to do this on the new box as well.

I love the Lenovo Laptops, Great keyboard, the screen could be better but is not bad, I prefer the glossy screens, just get a 24inch for the office.

Justice~!
01/30/2008 01:35 AM by
Justice~!

Tom Opgenorth gets himself a Mac??

I AM THE EDMONTON TRAILBLAZER

Ayende, if you're like me (a shy, retiring man who is annoyed when women try to rip his pants off) then I suggest avoiding a Mac. The hassles and harassment (most of it sexual) are just not worth it.

However if you want to start a new life full of unparallelled charisma...well, you know the path to take.

si
01/31/2008 07:25 AM by
si

I've had a pro-star for the last 4 years, aside from wearing out the plastic where I rest my hands :) it has performed faultlessly.

Recommended if you want plenty of grunt and have little regard for battery life

http://www.pro-star.com/index.cfm?mainpage=serial-price&serial=9194&promoteid=90000275&screenid=13067101&cpuid=30094900&hdid=40095400&cdromid=20074638&ramid=80092600&batteryid=10031852&gcardid=16098300&nicwid=63092106&nicbid=66055624

James White
02/03/2008 10:00 PM by
James White

I bought two laptops recently with roughly the same requirements, first I got a Sager Dual 64 AMD with a huge screen. It was stupid expensive, and the only thing that made it seem less enormous was the size of the power block I had to carry. I quickly got tired of the hassle and tried the HP DV9500t with much less impressive specs and a slightly smaller screen. I'm freakin' thrilled with it though. It's the perfect size, not too heavy, fantastic screen and everything just works, and really well. All the extra bits I thought were important were just meaningless once I got the HP and it cost about half as much. So if you are considering some exotic brand/config, consider what you are willing to trade for that.

Joey Ch&#246;mpff
02/08/2008 01:39 PM by
Joey Chömpff

I've got the Vostro 1700 with an 120 GB 7.200 rpm HDD I also got 4 GB of RAM but Vista Ultimate doesn't use the full capacity. It doesn't have an HDMI or DVI connection. And I forgot to check an bleutooth module with my order

Tommy Skaue
02/21/2008 09:16 AM by
Tommy Skaue

I'm curious. Did you make your choice, Ayende?

I'm about to upgrade my IBM T42p and so far the Lenovo T61p seems like the best choice.

Tommy Skaue
02/25/2008 09:03 AM by
Tommy Skaue

Wow... you choosed a Mac? I guess money wasn't an issue here.

It may be a bit early to give a good feedback on your experience, but how is the Mac working for you so far? Are you looking back, or are you too busy thinking about Linq for NHibernate to "feel" anything about the new hardware ? ;-)

Marco
03/07/2008 10:45 AM by
Marco

Recieve your macbook pro already? and what it your experience sofar? running vmware?

Comments have been closed on this topic.